In a Jan. 28 Mirror article about the 1994 assault weapons ban, we reviewed some important issues raised when the men that drafted the U.S. Constitution disagreed about the question of whether to authorize “standing” armies.
There were those on one side that felt national security might be neglected without a Constitutional provision mandating a full-time, professional army. On the other side were men like Thomas Jefferson who saw the potential for the proposed federal government to become a new form of tyranny.
The Founders included the right to keep and bear arms in the Bill of Rights largely in order to satisfy proponents on both sides of this question. The modern objection that usually follows is that any invading military force that gets through the U.S. Armed Forces will not be deterred by an armed citizen standing on his or her porch with a handgun. Nor is he going to prevent domestic armed forces from suppressing the populace should domestic tyranny arise.
Thus, the Second Amendment is an anachronism. Or is it? The colonial American “rabble” defeated superpower forces of Great Britain — forces that dominated much of the world’s land mass and all of the high seas. One advantage held by the colonial “minutemen” were long-barreled Kentucky rifles, with state-of-the-art grooves that sent balls of lead spiraling into British columns with accuracy at distances that British smooth-bore weapons could not touch. Such rifle technology was available because colonial farmers and backwoodsmen were constantly handling and improving variants of evolving European designs.
Britain was across the Atlantic and lacked modern transport to bring the wily colonials to submission. The Soviet Union faced no such limitations when it invaded neighboring Finland — twice! Finnish citizen-soldiers halted Soviet troops in the 1939 Winter War and again in 1941. Accurate shooting, combined with the Finnish ability to travel across frozen lakes and forests on skis, provided numerous opportunities to obtain Russian arms and ammunition compatible with Finnish weapons.
Chinese Communist peasants and workers fought the well-armed Chinese Nationalists (supposedly at the same time that they were holding off invading Japanese forces). The Great March seems to have been proof to Mao Zedong and his admirers that allowing citizens to own guns is unimaginable folly. In fact, no dictator has ever permitted such a situation to exist for very long.
We aren’t talking about standing on your front porch with a pistol or even a deer rifle. The Second Amendment is about handling and working with weapons that are militarily useful. Ron Barrett’s .50-caliber rifle (outlawed in California) continues a heritage that puts Barrett alongside American innovators like Samuel Colt, John Browning and John Garand. Such designers working in private sector shops and garages developed efficient guns used by civilians and military. Military and civilian shooters and designers in the U.S. always come from the same cultural fabric. The Founders knew that freedom to handle militarily useful firearms prepares each generation to pass on that heritage in a world that is hostile to freedom.